Christmas Ale the Next Step – Preparing the Yeast


I the previous article I was writing about the planning of my next brewing project, Christmas Ale. I have bought all the commodities, now the next task is to understand and make everything ready for adding yeast to the homebrew.

Craft Beer - Christmas Ale-Yeast

Yeast has one task, and that is to produce beer. You, yourself makes the wort and the yeast makes your beer. There are two methods of using yeast, one is liquid yeast, and the other is dry yeast.

Both types of yeast need preparation, whereas liquid yeast is the most complicated one. Dry yeast is easy to use and is used more and more.

Our brewing project needs 4 packets of yeast to make great beer. The next step-preparing the yeast will be an interesting mini-project.

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Is a Yeast Starter Necessary and What is the Benefit of It?

A yeast starter is a straight forward method, but it takes some time, and the risk of contamination is more significant than with dry yeast.

The reason for using liquid yeast is:

  1. The right amount of yeast gives the desired ester profile (the amount of fruitiness) in your beer.
  2. Consistent results are obtained in the fermentation.
  3. The risk of infection is significantly reduced.

The Process of Making the Yeast Starter

When making yeast starters, you usually start 4-5 days before the actual brewing day, depending on the equipment you have. The process itself is straight forward, and the steps are described in the following steps;

  • Calculate the amount of yeast you need with the help of a yeast calculator. Measure up the correct amount of water and malt extract. The usual amount is 100g/L
  • Warm up the mixture to the boiling point and add a yeast nutrient when it starts boiling. Let the mixture it boil for 15 minutes.
  • Cool the mixture, the wort, to below 24 degrees Celsius. Add the yeast and cooled wort into a disinfected container. An Erlenmeyer flask or a laboratory flask is perfect.
  • Wait for the yeast fermentation to complete. Depending on which method you use for adding oxygen, a stir plate or stirring the mixture manually, this takes from 24 to 49 hours.
  • Put the container with the yeast in a refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Pour the clear wort so that only the yeast slurry is left in the container. The yeast slurry is your yeast starter.
  • Let the container with the yeast slurry stand in room temperature while you are brewing the wort for the full batch of beer.
  • When your wort is finished. cool the wort, pour the wort into the fermentation bucket, add more yeast nutrient, oxygen and at last pitch the yeast into the wort.

Then it is the waiting time until it is time to transfer the mixture into the bottles for maturing until Christmas arrives.

Photo by Kristian Hunt on Unsplash

What Kind of Equipment is Needed

You don´t need much equipment for doing a yeast starter. You will need the following:

  • A container for the yeast. Preferably use an Erlenmeyer flask. They are made of glass and is easy to disinfect, and they can withstand high temperatures. They come in different sizes. With an Erlenmeyer flask, you can do the complete yeast start process with only one container.
  • Malt extract – Use dried malt extract. You will need 100g/L
  • Yeast nutrient – wort made from malt extract lacks the necessary nutrients the yeast needs. Half a teaspoon is sufficient.
  • Aluminium foil or cotton plugs to prevent contamination, and keep the supply of oxygen, and letting CO2 out.
  • Yeast- Calculate the necessary amount of yeast to be added. Use one of the freely available calculators on the Internet. MrMalty´s or Brewers Friend is two good sources of calculators.
  • A weight for measuring the correct amount of malt extract
  • Star San or other disinfectants. Make sure to disinfect everything that comes into contact with your wort.

You local brewer supplier or online store will have all you need to make a perfect yeast starter.

Preparing Dry Yeast

Preparing dry yeast is a straight forward process and takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. It is advisable to prepare the dry yeast while the wort is cooled. By doing it this way, the dry yeast is ready to be pitched into the wort, when it has reached its target temperature.

What is meant by pitching the yeast? It is nothing fancy, but just another way of saying that you pour the yeast starter or the dry yeast mix into the wort.Saflager w-34/70 Dry Yeast

The quality of dry yeast has improved and improved in recent years. Several breweries use dry yeast in professional beer brewing, and dry yeast is an excellent alternative to liquid yeast.

The first thing to do is to clean a container, feel free to use an Erlenmeyer flask or other equipment dedicated to brewing. Procedures for cleaning can be found below in this guide. When the Erlenmeyer flask is disinfected, add one deciliter of boiled water per packet of dry yeast, and cool the water down to around 30-35 ° C.

The water should be boiled and cooled in the same way as described later in this guide. If you use water directly from the tap, you can get bacteria from the filter located at the end of the tap. If you boil in a kettle, you can get bacteria from the pouring spout.

After cooling, add yeast to the water and shake the container so that you get oxygen. This is necessary as the yeast needs the oxygen which is removed from the water when it boils. Let this soak for 20 min, and the yeast is ready for use.

It may be necessary to stir in the yeast with a disinfected spoon. You can start preparing dry yeast, for example, when you begin to cool the wort. Then it is ready for pitching just in time.

Some Final Thoughts

When you are new to craft beer and home brewing, the brewing process might seem a bit daunting and overwhelming. Bu the truth is, it is quite easy. You only have to be patient, while the yeast produces the beer for you. Learning about yeast and the fermentation process is something that your new hobby will benefit a lot from. A piece of good advice is to join up on several Facebook groups with craft beer as a topic. There are also very good videos on YouTube of enthusiasts that is filming their brewing sessions.

When you follow the recipe and are diligent with hygiene and temperature, you will succeed every time you brew.

Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Christmas Ale the Next Step – Preparing the Yeast”

  1. Hi Roy, 

    I think u really have a very cool website – Coffee, Beer & Gadgets. I seem to have missed the earlier parts about making beer and ale, but even reading this part, I couldn’t help feel that it was really complicated. I would probably just go out and let the local breweries take care of all the brewing. Draught beer is available in plenty where I live and the joy of a quiet afternoon with beer is indeed indescribable. 

    Thank God for beer and potato chips. 



    • Hi, Aparna. It is a lot easier than it seems. It is really just down to two things, temperature and hygiene. The rest is just to follow a recipe, just like making food.

      But I have to agree with you that it is easier to go out for a beer as there is a huge selection of craft beer in shops, bars and restaurants these days. Craft beer is a trend that has been strong for a long time. No, surprise really as brewing beer and ale has been with humanity since the dawn of times.

      Beer, Ale and potato chips are great after a long day of work.

      -Never Stop Learning – The Sky is the Limit-

  2. I like this really and I must tell you that you did a good jobs to explain about how to make the yeast. I think this is sometimes one of the most challenging things for those who are into making beer. But the way you explained making yeast for your Christmas ale makes it a very good guide, which can be applied to other brewing projects.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing of your thoughts about preparing yeast for craft beer. Yeast preparation is basically the same process no matter what you brew. But then again, some types of beer/ales require another process regarding yeast.



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